(CN) – During a speech at Renaissance High School in downtown Detroit, Michigan, Joe Biden made the case that he is the single best person to beat President Donald Trump in November.
He did so on the eve of a primary election in the state that could further solidify the increasing likelihood that he will earn the Democratic nomination for president.
“Michigan, I’m counting on you in a big way,” Biden said, repeating his oft-repeated phrase that the upcoming election amounted to a battle for the soul of America.
Biden referenced the bailout of the auto industry during the Barack Obama administration when he served as vice president as proof of his commitment to the people of Michigan.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan indicated that Michigan should reciprocate the loyalty of Biden – who stood for the state when it was down – by supporting his campaign, which was all but dead after the New Hampshire primary before it came roaring back to life in South Carolina.
Biden only mentioned Sanders in passing once, referencing Sanders’s claim that in order to beat Trump one had to channel the energy and vigor of the progressive movement.
“Well on Super Tuesday, we had 70% more voters and they voted for us,” Biden said.
The campaign event was repeatedly marred by protesters. At one point, two men held up signs criticizing past trade agreements – one read “NAFTA killed our jobs” – and later a group of people interrupted Biden to wave Green New Deal signs. In both instances, the protesters
were escorted out of the room to loud boos from the crowd but Biden tried to palliate the collective ire.
“This isn’t a Trump rally,” he said. “They’re just Bernie Bros.”
Other than the reference to Sanders’s passionate followers who have come under increasing criticism for an occasional lack of civility emitting from their ranks, Biden focused most of his derision on Trump.
He can probably afford to, as he leads Michigan handily according to most polls and is the clear frontrunner to secure the nomination.
Monmouth published a poll Monday that had Biden up 14 percentage points over Sanders, with the former vice president garnering 50% of the support and Sanders with 36%. Another poll published by the Detroit Free Press on Monday, showed an even larger disparity, with Biden holding a 24-point lead.
Sanders hosted a town hall in Michigan last week hoping to rally voters in the state and has continued to express confidence in his campaign’s viability there.
One of Biden’s main arguments is his ability to build a large coalition, a tacit slight to Sanders, who has maintained an ardent base but has struggled to expand it.
As evidence, Biden featured Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker during the event, both of whom threw unequivocal support behind the former vice president and earned copious applause from the attendees of the event. Both politicians have been floated as possible candidates for vice president.
“I’m so proud to endorse Joe Biden to be our next President,” Harris said during her speech before introducing Biden. “I believe in Joe. It’s so reflective of his personality, but he believes there is room for everyone.”
Booker echoed similar sentiments, having endorsed Biden Monday morning.
“I’m proud to be on Joe’s team because he’s on your team,” Booker said.
Biden continues to rack-up endorsements, spurring his increasing momentum as the primary race enters its final stretch.
Sanders, on the other hand, continues to run as an outsider willing to challenge the Democratic National Committee and other establishment figures. He hasn’t secured nearly as many endorsements, particularly from others formerly in the race.
Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar both ran campaigns that consistently placed in the top five in polling but dropped out and threw their weight before Biden just before Super Tuesday.
Endorsements are traditionally important for presidential candidates, although Donald Trump bucked conventional wisdom in 2016 by securing the nomination without many endorsements and without support from the GOP party apparatus.
Biden thanked Booker and Harris, and in perhaps one of the more interesting moments of the nights, called them the future of the Democratic Party.
“I view myself as a bridge,” he said. “They are the future.”
Speculation has mounted in certain circles that Biden, who is 77, will pick a vice president that could run as his successor in four years. The characterization of himself as a bridge to the next generation of Democratic politicians will only serve to further that speculation.
Some of Sanders’s supporters have attempted to hit Biden on the age question, despite the fact that Sanders is older.
But several commentators question Biden’s cognitive fitness. His well-known propensity for gaffes withstanding, and some verbal mistakes leftover from a childhood stutter, Biden delivered his speech with confidence and verve Monday night, albeit while frequently consulting his notes.
Regardless, the former vice president will strive to continue to allay fears about his mental acuity and his ability to take on Trump in the general election as polls open in Michigan Tuesday morning.